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AK: First mask-free day in Tartu sees public divided on keeping up practice

Shoppers in a Tartu mall Wednesday, the first day the mask-wearing requirement had been lifted.
Shoppers in a Tartu mall Wednesday, the first day the mask-wearing requirement had been lifted. Source: ERR

For the first time in over six months, members of the public could enter stores and restaurants in Estonia without having to wear a face-mask, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Wednesday evening, with many people doing just that, while for others the habit seems to be more ingrained.

AK hit the streets of Estonia's second city, Tartu, to take the temperature of customers and business owners on the first day the restriction was lifted.

Marion Kukk, a cafe manager, told AK that: "We have been given a completely free choice on the matter, and those who want to wear will wear them."

"At present, it is more-or-less 50/50, some people are wearing them, some not, and those who have been vaccinated are opting to ditch their masks," Kukk, who said she remains in the "masks-on" camp at present and has not been vaccinated yet, continued.

Service providers may in any case are required to wear masks.

If lunchtime in Tartu Wednesday was anything to go by, around half of people were still wearing masks – which is still a Health Board recommendation – inside one of the town's several shopping malls.

"I just do it out of habit," said one customer, Virve, adding she had forgotten the restriction had been lifted but now she'd remembered, and since she'd been vaccinated, she wanted to get rid of the item.

Another member of the public, Karolina, said that this might be a bit premature: "For our own safety and the well-being of others. Somehow, there's a feeeling that maybe we could spend some more time [wearing masks]."

"The situation is not directly under control yet. Restrictions are easing, but until everything is under control, there is no point in freeing things up too much," another Tartu resident, Erik, said.

Yet another respondent, Irina, told AK that however: "I ended up even getting a little annoyed sometimes. I can't wear it properly when I'm wearing my glasses. It was just difficult to wear a mask. So it's good, I feel in a better mood already. I've been to the store and bought something."

While maintaining social distance at a "reasonable" level is still a requirement, though not the previous "2+2"-level of dispersal, on buses this is harder to pull off, AK found, and the masks have not been slipping, as it were.

City bus driver Andrus Heinlo said: "In my opinion, there are not significantly more people today who do not wear masks. Masks are still being worn, which is nice to see," adding that he did not wear one himself when not provided one by his employer, given that drivers are protected by the plexiglass-type barrier separating them from customers.

Individual coronavirus outbreaks can still be followed by a Health Board requirement for attendees at events, or at specific locations, to wear masks, AK found.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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